At the end of the Second World War, Japanese scientists were developing a super-weapon but the nation was beaten before it had time to be put into effect. Now, many years later in the present day, Shotaro (Sosuke Ikematsu) is the grandson of one of the orginal scientists, his now deceased father having worked on a similarly mysterious project just before his untimely death. Today lonely Shotaro is at school and draws such an impressive picture of a caged bird the class has to study that they all believe he has copied it from a book and tease him. When he gets home, he prepares the evening meal for him and his mother and when she arrives she is pleased, but that feeling doesn't last after she turns on the television and sees a report of a dangerous, flying, mechanical arm causing damage in the city. But what could this have to do with Shotaro?
Tetsujin 28 was based on a like-named anime from the 1960s that was translated for English-speaking audiences as Gigantor, all based around the adventures of a young boy and - what else? - his giant robot. Here there are only two robots featured, but their scale is well conveyed thanks to the advances in computer generated animation, although they both retain a pleasing cartoonish quality. It's funny that a country so well known for miniaturising electronics should produce so many films about huge and devastating machines and monsters, but here's yet another one, and one which moves at a surprisingly sedate pace for what at first glance might be expected to be an action-packed spectacular.
Written by Hiroshi Saito and Kota Yamada based on Mitsuteru Yokoyama's creations, the drama is heavy on coming to terms with family realtionships and responsibilities, often at the expense of any exctitement. Shotaro is haunted by a nightmare of being violently rejected by his father, which is in fact a memory of being pushed to the ground to prevent an explosion harming him as we discover later. But then a giant robot known as Black Ox makes its presence felt, smashing up various Tokyo landmarks (seasoned kaiju eiga fans will be familiar with how this one goes) and threatening a return - it is this those flying arms are from. But how did its arms fly without apparent support when Black Ox needs a jet engine to soar into the heavens?
Anyway, Shotaro realises that he can do something to stop this chaos when he is contacted by an elderly scientist who tells him all and brings him to see Testujin: Shotaro's father was responsible for building his own giant robot and only Shotaro can operate it (for reasons which escape me) with a special remote control. Feeling it is his duty, the boy tries to fend off an attack on the Japanese Parliament but after exchanging a few clanging punches, Tetsujin is soundly defeated. Disheartened, Shotaro doesn't want anything more to do with the mechanical titans or the evil mastermind behind the Black Ox, who turns out to have lost a son, just as our hero has lost a father. You would have thought more would be made of this plot point, but it's rather forgotten about in the climax, with both robots given an appropriate weight - I don't mean emotionally, I mean they both look very heavy. Probably too slow for kids and too silly for adults, Tetsujin 28 is an uncharacteristically grave effort considering its light hearted origins.